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Francis Hannam


 

Captain Francis John Hannam  5th July 1916

Francis Hannam was born in the Summer of 1880 in Bristol and grew up in Westbury-on-Trym. He was the only son of Samuel J. Hannam, a timber merchant, and Laura, who also produced two daughters, Maude and Mabel. Francis was educated at Bristol Grammar School .

 

He joined Clifton Rugby Club in 1898-99 and was captain from 1901 to 1903. His rugby career was ended by a serious injury sustained playing for Gloucestershire.

 

Above Clifton XV of 1901-02 Back Row (L-R): Leonard W. Baker, W.W. Vaughan, H.W. Millard, G.W. Templar, H.B.F. Bingham, J.H. Inskip, A.S. Mills, H. Clissold, E.L. Marriott, C.W.W. James, S.B. Smith. Middle Row: G.H. Beloe, E.S.B. Smith, F.J. Hannam, Mr H.W. Beloe, H. Mills, E.F. Eberle. Front Row: H.W. Mearns, A.H.C. Fargus, D.A. Clark, F.O. Wills.

He married Edith Margaret Boucher, a tennis player who won gold medals in the Ladies Singles and Mixed Doubles competitions at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and was twice a finalist at Wimbledon . Three of her brothers played for Clifton RFC.

 

Above Edith Hannam in 1912.

 

Francis served with C Company, 2nd/4th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. He was killed carrying out a night time raid on German trenches at Aubers on 5th July 1916.

Corporal H Yarrow - writing to his wife in Bristol said

Well, here I am at last safe and well, but with a bullet wound in the right wrist. My hand is a bit easier, though now too stiff to write the field card while in Boulogne . The bullet went through and it happened on Wednesday morning 1.30 a.m. We were attacking the German troops, it was a bombing raid. A grenade dropped by my side. I was on hands and knees. I rolled quickly away. It exploded but I was not touched.

It was a game getting into barbed wire, ditches etc. A German machine gun played havoc with us. I was soaked with mud and water. I ditched the gong, but I have a nice souvenir, a water bottle (copper).

We were shelled heavily before and after we attacked. Another chap in my company is in the next bed.

We were in their trenches 1½ hours after we attacked as it was too risky to get out.

We honestly looked forward to it all, with no fear whatsoever.

Captain Hannam was killed in this raid. I never saw any more of him. C B shall be here about 21 days.

Francis Hannam was buried at Laventie Military Cemetery , La Gorgue.

 

 

A memorial service was held for him on 23rd July 1916 at St Mary's, Tyndall Park , Bristol . As well as his family, rugby players and officials from all over Bristol attended. At the service the Reverend F. Norton, in his impressive address, said that

just as the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, it is true, in a measure, that Frank Hannam's energy, courage and coolness, daring and self sacrifice was learned in no small degree upon the playing fields of Bristol.

They had assembled that afternoon” he said “to take off their hats - if I might use the term - to a brave man and a gentleman. Known throughout Bristol as Frank Hannam, his death has caused a tremendous loss in their lives. Few sacrifices in this war could have been greater than his, for he was in the prime of his life, mentally, physically and - let us not forget it - spiritually. Ever since he went into the trenches he never forgot to go to God's altar for strength and help.

Francis Hannam is included in the World War 1 Memorial chapter of For College, Club & Country – A History of Clifton Rugby Football Club, printed by MX Publishing in 2009. ISBN 9781904312758

email: patrick.casey@cliftonrfchistory.co.uk

http://sites.google.com/site/caseybooks/

 

© Patrick Casey, 2010
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